There Is Nothing ‘Smart’ about Rationing Electricity

Heading for the Dark Ages

Cartoon by Josh

Cartoon by Josh

Tonight on Channel 4 Niall Ferguson will be explaining why Western Civilisation is on its last legs. The reason for this is very simple: we no longer understand or value our civilisation; indeed many of us feel rather embarrassed about it. We have been taught to view all our great historical achievements through a filter of post-colonial guilt; we have learned the weasel art of cultural relativism where, in their own special way, cultures that practise female circumcision and bury homosexuals under walls are just as vibrant, valid and meaningful as the one that gave us Michelangelo, penicillin and the splitting of the atom; weve been persuaded that elitism and authority are undesirable (cf Jamies Dream School); weve bought heavily into the fashionable meme that mankind is a cancer on the earth and that the proper thing to do is abandon progress, destroy our economies, limit population growth and try to recapture an agrarian idyll which of course never existed except in the imaginations of pastoral poets and the Prince of Wales.

The last part is the theme of my book Watermelons. Though I say it myself it couldnt be coming out at a more desperate time. To show how desperate, let us consider the words of Steve Holliday, chief executive of the National Grid, interviewed last week on BBC Radio 4s Today programme.

The grid is going to be a very different system in 2020, 2030. We keep thinking that we want it to be there and provide power when we need it. It is going to be much smarter than that. We are going to change our own behaviour and consume it when it is available and available cheaply.

I have one simple question here: what on earth is this imbecile still doing in his job?

Obviously, one might except this kind of inanity from Green MP Caroline Lucas. She is, after all, the leader of a party ideologically committed in its manifesto to raising taxes, destroying economic growth and restricting personal freedoms.

National Grid, on the other hand, is the organisation which distributes Britains power supplies. Not just the power supplies of the kind of hairshirt loons who believe there must be limits to growth and that the answer is therefore to deny our children an economic future, raise taxes and force us to use crappy, flickery yellow lightbulbs and get used to our rubbish being collected once a fortnight no matter how much we pay in council tax. But also the power supplies of the rest of us that is, most of us who just want to get on with living our lives, paying the rent, making the most of our short span on this earth, and enjoying our hot showers and baths as and when we choose rather than when some eco-fascist busybody tell us its permitted.

Note Steve Hollidays wonderfully creative use of the word smarter. In the old days, it used to mean positive things like more intelligent, better dressed, sharper, quicker, wittier. In Hollidays Newspeak, however, it means rationed according to the whims of Big Brother.

As we have seen before, there are elements in the Green movement who actively want to revive wartime-style rationing and who welcome shortages and inconvenience, because they believe this is the price we must pay for Saving The Planet.

What is a matter of the direst concern is when such a fringe mentality becomes part of the political and economic mainstream.

Rationing our energy supplies it is not progress. It is a step back quite literally towards the Dark Ages.

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17 thoughts on “There is nothing ‘smart’ about rationing electricity”

  1. JimmyGiro says:7th March 2011 at 3:11 amDamn, Niall Ferguson, makes me wish I had a TV. I hope they put it up on 4 OD, on YouTube.
  2. Chris P says:7th March 2011 at 6:13 amRevealing once again that James has no clue about mathematics and science.

    He is clueless about exponential growth and doesn’t understand that we live on a finite planet with finite resources. He’d do well as a republican in the US because it requires ignorance to be one.

    We evolved to be selfish – just like James. Unfortunately it doesn’t work when demand is greater than supply.

    So “There is nothing “smart” about james ”

    (Smacks head on table)

  3. Nige Cook says:7th March 2011 at 9:04 amChris: exponential growth applies to both population and resources. The extra population is an extra resource, so there is no problem. It’s only when you falsely claim (as Mathus did and later the Club of Rome in 1972) that population rises exponentially but food production increases linearly, that you can make doomsday predictions! The use of agent orange in Vietnam led pushed environmentalism on to the political agenda, such as the 1972 film Silent Running about the preservation of Earth’s forests in a spaceship, to allow reforestation of the planet after environmental catastrophe:

    Silent Running: Science-Fiction Story With Cheerful Robots
    New York Times, April 1, 1972

    The year is 2008, sometime after the earth has been defoliated, its valleys filled in and its mountains leveled, when it’s 75° everywhere from Murmansk to Tanzania, and when everyone has a job. It is, in short, hell, at least to Freeman Lowell, the chief astro-botanist on the American Airlines space freighter Valley Forge, one of three space freighters cruising like arks in the vicinity of Saturn. The ships are a task force of giant greenhouses in which earth’s vanished plant life is being preserved until the day of refoliation.

    In 1974, the Club of Rome published its second report, Mankind at the Turning Point: “the world is facing an unprecedented set of interlocking global problems, such as, over population, food shortages, non-renewable resource depletion, environmental degradation and poor governance.” It concluded: “The Earth has cancer and the cancer is Man.”
    The delusion in the computer program (used to obfuscate the errors), was the old one by Mathus: using an exponentially rising population but a more slowly rising rate of resources and food production! This was pointed out by Dr Allen Kneese and Dr Ronald Riker and reported in Newsweek, 13 March 1972, page 103.

    Wartime style rationing would be ideal for our present recession and debt problems: we need to bring back rationing because consumer debt (not just national debt from Brown and Blair) is out of control, people are unhealthy, drinking too much alcohol and flooding the NHS with unnecessary drunk accident time-wasters making some genuinely sick people wait forever or even give up trying to get treatment. We need not prohibition, but rationing of alcohol consumption, tobacco consumption, food consumption, and expensive imported goods that increase our trade deficit and make us poorer. There should be no rationing of British made goods, apart from unhealthy foods and alcohol. This will boost the British economy because people will be encouraged to buy unrationed British-made goods more, not save up ten years of ration coupons to enable them to buy imported cars. Obviously, rationing needs to be accompanied by strict deterrence of ration coupon racketeering, e.g. by using computerised finger print ID systems to verify ration coupon ownership.

  4. Martin Lack says:7th March 2011 at 9:37 amDid you actually watch the programme, James? I thought it was very good; although I must have missed the bit you were talking about because the programme I saw (from 10 minutes in) was all about how we narrowly avoided all speaking Chinese because of the death of a Ming Emperor with a penchant for exploration. Thus the Chinese became insulationist and shunned outsiders (a state from which they are only now emerging). The other reason I found this interesting is because I am currently studying the Environmental Politics and Policy of China and India and, in this respect, a few things are worth noting:
    1. As aluded to by Ferguson, as a result of the Opium Wars more than anything else, 20th Century China was very anti-Western in outlook and certainly wouldn’t do anything becasue we told them too.
    2. Neverthless, in 1972 they joined the UN and thus began the end of their isolationism.
    3. My 1989, they had a whole raft of Environmental Legislation on the go (but only because they saw the need for it – not because we forced it on them).
    4. By 2007, they had publicly admitted to their own people and the outside world that “development first, environment second” was no good.
    5. China is now actively pursuing policies to mitigate pollution and climate change becuase it has calculated (by and for itself) that it will suffer if it does not. To repeat, as is evidenced by its brinkmanship within the UNFCCC process, China is not doing anything because we in the West want it to, it is acting purely in its own self interest.
    It is time that the fossil fuel lobby stopped funding the “debate” over climate change; prefereably without being taken to court like the tobacco executives were over perpetuating the “debate” over whether smoking causes lung cancer for 50 years. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has been happening (w.r.t. AGW) for at least 30 years already…
  5. Martin Lack says:7th March 2011 at 10:33 amNige, for once I think you have produced a relevant quote: “…the world is facing an unprecedented set of interlocking global problems, such as over population, food shortages, non-renewable resource depletion, environmental degradation and poor governance…” (Club of Rome, 1974). Was the rest of your post intended as sarcasm/irony (as it appears to be an attempted parody of an Orwellian dystopia)?

    However, returning to the Club of Rome, the subsequent reports produced by the Meadows et al team at the MIT have validated their World3 model; as do the recent hikes in food and fuel prices and political instability that we are now seeing. Indeed, as Meadows et al repeated most recently in Limits to Growth – the 30 year update, the world is indeed beginning to run out of the “ability to cope” with what we are doing to the planet (p.223). Therefore, we would do well to live within the Earth’s means (not just our own); and remember that, as Herman E. Daly once remarked, the world may be developing; but it is not growing!

  6. joecool says:7th March 2011 at 6:24 pmI can think of few things more distasteful than having the hand of a bureaucrat on my electrical power! When he shuts mine off, I want his to go off, too, but I’m betting that won’t happen!
  7. The Un Opinion says:7th March 2011 at 9:45 pmI love how you get under these guys skin ! As in life, the people who react the most are those most insecure about their own opinions. Otherwise they would just get on with their business regardless of what you say. Keep up the good work … “Don’t tread on me !!”
  8. JimmyGiro says:7th March 2011 at 11:40 pm@ The Un Opinion,

    Opinions may not change our livelihoods, but government policy is designed to.

  9. Martin Lack says:8th March 2011 at 11:41 amAccording to Nige, “exponential growth applies to both population and resources [and] extra population is an extra resource“. These are such a catastrophically stupid statements, I can’t believe I overlooked them!

    Population is a drain on resources because the only thing it is good at is depleting and polluitng them (i.e. sources and sinks respectively). Oil production has already peaked; and one day it will run out. The same goes for all of the Earth’s other resources; including uranium for nuclear energy (especially if we continue only to use 2% of what what there is out there).

  10. Nige Cook says:8th March 2011 at 1:47 pm“Population is a drain on resources because the only thing it is good at is depleting and polluitng them (i.e. sources and sinks respectively). Oil production has already peaked; and one day it will run out. The same goes for all of the Earth’s other resources; including uranium for nuclear energy (especially if we continue only to use 2% of what what there is out there).” – Martin Lack

    Martin, your “lebensraum crisis” and “oil crisis” are traditional reasons dictators give for ethnic cleansing and starting wars, yet this population crisis myth was popularized and endorsed by your beloved Monty Python, in their politically-correct, absurd attempted ridicule Catholic Theology (which, as a Catholic myself, I find disgusting). Of course fossil fuels are being depleted and becoming less economic as they are depleted. This naturally forces consumers away from burning fossil fuels, without any need for carbon credit schemes and increased taxes. This is being accelerated by the civil war in Libya, which is has pushed up the cost of crude to $110/barrel. Our government may soon have to face the fact they need to reduce petrol taxes, not increase them! In 1974, the Yom Kippur war between Israel and oil-producing Arab countries pushed oil prices up from $3 to $11/barrel, forcing the British government to cut speed limits to 50 mph to increase fuel efficiency. As oil prices rise, more and more people will end up buying electric hybrid cars, recharging at home, and only using petrol for long journeys or in emergencies when they run out of battery power. There is no need for political action to discourage oil consumption, it’s happening naturally! As for nuclear power, we have immense reserves of Th-232 and U-238, which can be converted into fissile U-233 and Pu-239 by neutron capture in reactors. U-233 and Pu-239 are ideal for very compact, high-efficiency nuclear power supplies. The only hold-up is widespread ignorance of the facts about radiation hormesis.

  11. Martin Lack says:8th March 2011 at 9:19 pmNige,

    Let the record show that it is you that keeps referring to Nazi deology, not me. However, I note that you do not deny that perpetual growth within a closed system is impossible. Stephen Hawking’s solution is, of course, to suggest that within 200 years humanity will colonise space. However, I think the vast majority of planet Earth could be pretty unhospitable (if not uninhabitable) long before then… Therefore, although I do not think population growth is our biggest problem (because it is expected to stabilise at 150% of it current level within 50 years), I must confess that the Catholic Church has been – and remains – one of the biggest obstacles to getting under-developed countries out of their low death rate/high birth rate – perpetual poverty – trap. In the interim, since I am not a eugenics/one child policy/enforced sterilisation supporter, I am forced to pin all my hopes on the education of women; and the acceptance of contraception. Sorry about that.

    The government cannot afford to permanently cut the cost of fuel. If they do anything it will only be a short-term attempt to prevent civil disorder. The cost of fuel must reflect the environmental damage it causes. That is why we must pursue alternative sources. In the interim, I agree that speed limits might well be on the cards again (or were you being sarcastic?).

    The last time I heard of radiation hormesis, it was being put forward as a reason for not acting to control ozone depleting chemicals in the atmosphere. However, my point was that if we must have nuclear energy, it would make sense to use all the resources we have, which will eventually require the construction of commercial scale Fast Neutron Reactors that can run on Uranium-238 – and all the reprocessed fuel that is knocking about waiting to be stolen by terrorists – none of which can be used in thermal reactors. We already have a massive waste legacy to deal with, so, if we are going to bury it deep underground, we might as well “go large” (as even a small repository will be built entirely at taxpayers expense and cost tens of billions of pounds).

    Can we end this “discussion” here please; as I really need to focus on preparatory stages of my MA dissertation entitled “A Discourse Analysis of Climate Change Scepticism” (whereas, being a mild OCD sufferer, I cannot seem to focus on it at the moment)…? I only mention this so that you will not be offended if – miracle of miracles – I suddenly stop replying (i.e. you have not been part of my research – that would have been unethical and devious).

  12. Nige Cook says:9th March 2011 at 6:48 amMartin: you’re the one referring to Nazi ideology like hot air crises, not me: abusing science to predict a crisis, such claiming population increases faster than resources, is the classic “lebensraum crisis”. Avoiding the word Nazi is an obfuscation when dealing with a Nazi generated pseudoscience that diverts money into carbon credit traders and their investers like green pension fund managers, which during a recession would otherwise be available for genuine efforts to make the world a better place. Most of the nuclear waste is low-level waste (discarded protective clothing, packaging, cleaning fluid, etc.) from large size, low power-density thermal (o.025 eV) neutron reactors. Making use of safe, tiny reactors employing fast (1 MeV) neutrons fissioning Pu-239 or U-233 eliminates this low-level waste problem. Modern technology can eliminate any risk of supercriticality. Past nuclear failures have been due to safety obsessions, lying about Chernobyl’s effects, etc.

    The generation is evil begins with the moral ambiguity of “the ends justify the means”. As soon as you accept that in science, you’re on the road to hell, distorting data to fit a false theory. The pandering to eugenics pseudoscience in the 1930s by appeasers of the Nazi regime was “justified” in the name of preventing overpopulation, ensuring world peace, avoiding another war, etc. It was lies from beginning to end, encouraged racist aggressors, and caused disaster. Apart from eugenics, there was another big lie in science in the 1930s that was supposed to make the world safer. This was exaggeration of weapons effects.

    The British Government before WWII started a scientific quango to predict what aerial bombardment would do, and they decided to exaggerate casualty rate data, leading to a prediction of a million casualties a month. (This is documented in great detail in T. H. O’Brien, Civil Defence, United Kingdom Civil Series, History of the Second World War, HMSO, 1955.) Everyone believed these exaggerations, no questions asked. They believed because they wanted to believe that explosives, incendiaries, weather-dependent gas fallout, etc., would destroy London instantly. But it led Prime Minister Chamberlain to appease Hitler out of fear, encouraging his aggression, thus WWII.

    When you look at the exaggerations, they’re pathetic. In after the first aerial bombing of Britain by airships and Gotha bombers in WWI, the British Government issued a “duck and cover” warming in July 1917 that dramatically cut casualty rates from flying glass to people standing behind windows, and from people being blown over by blast in the open. They ignored post-July 1917 bomb casualty data in the pre-WWII exaggerations.

    The reason they got away with these lies, leading to appeasement of racist aggressors and thus an escalation of aggression followed by WWII, is the widespread belief that it was “safer not to take risks”. Everybody thought it a good idea to exaggerate the scientific facts in the name of peace, prosperity, health and safety. Few wanted to challenge the accuracy of the “scientific” assumptions of scare mongering lies, so even Winston Churchill’s eloquence was unable to sway public opinion in time to avert WWII.

    The lying dogma of climate change, “justified” ultimately not by data by fashionable groupthink pseudo-ethics like weapons effects exaggerations “for peace” before WWII, needs to be debunked. Maybe you could do the debunking in your MA thesis, “A Discourse Analysis of Climate Change Scepticism”?

  13. Martin Lack says:9th March 2011 at 12:38 pmGiven the history of AGW denial – in which Fred Singer played a very prominent and thoroughly discreditable role – I think it is you that will soon exceeding your safe daily calorie limit, simply by having to eat humble pie. See my new blog for context.
  14. Martin Lack says:9th March 2011 at 12:51 pmMy Fred Singer link does’t appear to have worked. Try this URL instead:
  15. Nige Cook says:9th March 2011 at 5:13 pmMartin, just because Churchill sided with Stalin to defeat Hitler, and Reagan supplied stinger missiles to the Taliban in Afghanistan to help them bog down the Soviet Union (encouraging Gorbachev’s change in foreign policy from 1988), this does not taint Churchill and Reagan!

    Just so you grasp the meaning of the sentence above, here it is more plainly: just because oil companies may have funded some pseudoscience claiming to refute CO2 global warming, that does not mean that science-based criticisms of the mechanism and data are all tainted. Churchill was not a communist for collaborating with Stalin against Hitler. He needed all the help he could get. The same for Reagan’s “Rambo III”-style efforts against Soviet foreign policy in Afghanistan, using the Taliban.

    Just because some of the oil companies have taken short-cuts in the past, this does not prove Al Gore correct. You’re just using a strawman argument, which ignores all the strong evidence I gave you (which debunks the data and the mechanism of CO2 warming).

    “[Propaganda is] the art of simplification, constant recapitulation, appealing to the instinctive and the emotional and simply ignoring unpleasant facts.”

    – Dr Joseph Goebbels.

  16. Martin Lack says:9th March 2011 at 5:41 pmThanks for the clarification, Nige. (It was necessary).

    I said I was not going to argue with you anymore; so I won’t.

  17. Frank Tavos says:9th March 2011 at 9:35 pmChalk up another win for Nigel!

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